On 26 January, the future of post-Brexit agricultural policy in England became more clear with the official announcement of six new standards under its Sustainable Farming Incentive. While UK farmers may cautiously welcome this long-awaited update, serious challenges remain for the sector.
In food, margins are tight and in Britain, it is supermarkets who pocket the biggest share of profits, leaving next to nothing for farmers. That was the result of a study done by Sustain. “Farmers hold a disproportionately high amount of the risk when it comes to producing food, but receive a disproportionately low amount of the reward, reflecting their relative weakness in the supply chain,” Vicki Hird, the head of Sustain stated.
In horticulture, the lack of seasonal labor remains a huge concern. Just before Christmas the government announced that 45,000 visas for seasonal workers would be available in 2023. Fruit and vegetable growers alone need between 70,000 and 90,000 workers. The National Farmers’ Union estimated that in 2022, £60 million worth of fruit and vegetables remained unpicked or had to be ploughed under due to the lack of laborers. As a result, many growers have reduced the acreage they plant, switched to other crops, or got out of farming altogether.